Updated: Dec 10, 2020
Hello and welcome to Stirring The Pot. Lovely to have you join me. However you found yourself here, I assume that you have some thoughts on starting a plant-based diet. I would love to share with you the knowledge I have gained through study and personal experience during the four years since I first decided to go plant-based. Some of what I have to say will suit you and some won't, but bits of it might find a place in your life.
One of my first suggestions would be to work out what brought you here in the first place. For me, it was a teenage daughter who wanted to go vegan and I wanted to make sure she did it in a healthy way. So as the main cook in the family, I educated myself and went plant-based with her. I was quickly hooked as I felt so good. For most of us, changing our diet to plant-based can be difficult and disruptive to our families and social groups, so it can easily get dropped in order to follow the path of least resistance. However, you are here right now reading this, which makes me think that you have some inkling of a 'why'. Just as every part of us evolves over time, so will your 'why', but at least aim to have a firm starting point to keep yourself motivated. The grand reasons for going plant-based are health, animal welfare and the environment, but within that I would suggest finding your day-to-day reason. Is it staying healthy for children or grandchildren? Finding the energy to get off the couch? Just tired of hurting all of the time? Or has David Attenborough inspired you? Or media stories of factory farming?
Once you have your armour-plated reason for going plant-based, dive in. I would suggest avoiding toe dipping unless you really feel that's all you can manage right now. The reason is because you want to feel the health benefits which happen through making a complete switch. And it's the feeling better that will spur you on to continue with your new plant-based diet. A diet of fruit, vegetables, grains and legumes is full of the vitamins and nutrients your body needs to thrive and feel energised. And by sticking with plants, you completely remove cholesterol and keep the saturated fats low. You also provide your body with the fibre it so desperately needs for a healthy gut and immune system.
The starting point for a plant-based diet is really quite simple. Leave out the animal products - meat, fish, dairy and eggs - and replace those foods with fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes. Now spend the next few days coming up with meal ideas. They don't need to be complicated. If you have cereal or oatmeal for breakfast, top it with oat or soya milk rather than dairy milk and add some berries or banana slices and sprinkle over a tablespoon of chia seeds. Or switch to vegan sausages and scrambled tofu. If lunch is a sandwich, try meat-free deli slices or hummus instead of ham. Add a vegetable soup or salad with vinaigrette. If you like chili for dinner, make it a bean chili with rice using tinned beans which are cheap, quick and very nutritious. Spaghetti with tomato and vegetable sauce is a good option. Keep it simple and work with what you already know. If you associate starting a plant-based diet with having to make complicated meals, you will quickly run out of time and enthusiasm. If you don't feel ready to go all in, or you think it won't fly with your family, then consider eating vegan until 6 p.m. and then make your usual family dinner but add some extra veg. I will leave you with three plant-based kickstart programmes to get you started. If they help with inspiration, then fabulous, but if it just seems overwhelming then simply tweak your usual recipes.
Plant-Based Health Professionals UK - 21-Day Challenge
Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine - 21-Day Vegan Kickstart
Forks Over Knives - Plant-Based Primer: The Beginner's Guide to a Plant-Based Diet
I'm looking forward to seeing you back here for my next post where I will expand on what constitutes a 'healthy' plant-based diet. Please leave comments or questions either here or on the Facebook page and I will answer them. Before I finish, it is important to say that the only vitamin you can't reliably get through a plant-based diet is vitamin B12. I will elaborate in a later post, but for the time being, please just be aware that if you are going fully plant-based, it is important for the health of your nerves and red blood cells that you to take a vitamin B12 supplement.